Emergency food bank receives outpouring of support in hard times

By Taylor McClure – Special to Brome County News

Throughout the pandemic, community organizations rallied together to support those in vulnerable situations while many were facing difficult situations themselves. The Brome Lake food bank, started around 30 years ago, provides services to Brome Lake, West Bolton, and Brome and is one of many groups in Brome-Missisquoi that addresses food insecurity. While Covid-19 changed the way the food bank, made up of volunteers, had to go about providing its emergency services, the support from the local community and its active citizens over the last two years allowed it to remain a bright light during hard times.

“We are not lacking at all. I hate to brag about it, but we are very fortunate,” said Gary Crandall, volunteer with the food bank for over 20 years. “Since Covid has started, the community has served us extremely well. We receive donations from the family counter every month, there are other people that will send us cheques two-three times a year, and businesses like Brome Bird Care help us a lot.”

For the past three months, the group has been giving out food again, but for a while it was forced to give out gift cards to grocery stores. “We couldn’t have people in to collect so we met them at the door and depending on numbers in their family we gave them a food card for a certain amount. We had to top up our shelves just the other day and that was 4,000$ right there. Money is not going as far at the grocery store and our clients realize that too.”

Even now the group has to follow various protocols when distributing. “We can only let one person in at a time so we have to be careful for sure. We have been following the protocols the community centre is giving us and they check up on us to see how we are doing and what we are doing. People are wearing their masks, sanitizing their hands when they come in, that sort of thing. People like the food cards, but they also like baskets of food and prefer that for sure because it goes a lot further.”

Despite the changes, Crandall said that things have been running smoothly thanks to a large and solid group of 17 active volunteers, but that demand for food has increased from about 30 individuals and families or less to over 40. “In November, we packed for 46 and we had three emergencies. Emergencies are people that don’t come regularly to the food bank. They may be new to town or something happened in the family and they needed some financial assistance so we have helped them out with the food.”

There are certain foods and other items that can be donated if people wish, like completed boxes of non-perishable goods, personal hygiene products, and baby products, but as of now, a cheque is preferred.
“It makes it a lot easier. We know who wants what when they apply. They tell us their allergies and preferences so when we are packing the box it’s not a generic box for everyone, it depends a lot on the individual and what they like and don’t like.”

Over the course of 30 years, the food bank never once had to coordinate fundraising for its initiatives, reflecting its importance for citizens. “We never had a financial campaign or anything like that, we have been well supported over the years by the community. We always say don’t thank us, we are only the middle people, if weren’t for people in their homes and businesses in town we wouldn’t have a food bank. It is appreciated.”

The Brome Lake food bank distributes food packages the third Friday of every month and while it will only be serving emergencies in December, when the Knowlton Lions Club organizes its annual Christmas food baskets in collaboration with volunteers from the food bank, donations and inquiries for services are always welcomed.

For all inquiries, call 450-242-2020 ext. 319, leave a message with your name and phone number, and someone will call you back to proceed with your request.

For donations, make a cheque out to Town of Brome Lake Food Bank and mail it to Centre Lac-Brome at 270 rue Victoria, Knowlton, QC, J0E 1V0 or leave the goods in the entrance of the large doors in the
back of the community centre and a caretaker will ensure that it is received.

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